Monday, August 26, 2013


My neighbor told me that my clothesline is depressing. She's a friend, and she's also right, so I didn't take it the wrong way. I want to wear mourning, and I have decided that black and white are a combination that could still look professional at the office.

I have always liked rituals and traditions. Some are tiny traditions that simply bring me joy, like having coffee outside on the front porch most mornings. Some help me stay connected, like my annual Christmas cards and letters to extended family. And now I'm developing rituals related to sadness as well. It doesn't feel like our current culture has many widely-accepted rituals for grief, beyond a funeral, so I'm having to make them up, or look back through history, to figure out what I can do.


On a more prosaic note, I am making good progress in keeping up with some of the day-to-day aspects of life. The dog has been a challenge for me, because Ada was always Andrew's responsibility. He walked her for up to an hour a day, and did all the training with her. With the help of my mother, who's been staying with me for the past month, I'm doing most of the walks, and I've started looking around for dog groups where the dog can socialize. Dog groups are also for me, because I need to balance my responsibility to keep my dog happy with my need to start making additional friends.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Points of light

It's not quite like I have good days and bad days; it's more like I have mostly okay days, punctuated with very-not-okay moments. When I'm very-not-okay, I do not feel like posting on the blog, so that means that what ends up here should be steady writing.

I was thinking today about George Bush the Senior's "thousand points of light". I never expected to quote George Bush, but it is an apt metaphor to say that I have a lot of points of light in my life right now. I'm going to use this post to acknowledge them.

  • In the first week, there was a great deal to do. I had no idea how much work needs to be done when someone dies: you may need to arrange housing and meals for visiting family members, pick up relatives from the airport, notify practically everyone you've ever met, decide what kind of funeral to have, find a religious leader to conduct it, and choose a funeral home. I leaned on a lot of people, and that got me through it. I have a core group of friends from our time at the University of Maryland, and I found I could give them assignments, like, "Please make sure my parents-in-law get picked up at the airport and taken to their hotel when they arrive from England," and it just got done. They cooked meals, spent time with me, arranged a memorial website, planned and paid for the meal after the funeral, and did a lot of driving. They did a lot of chores, without me thinking about it, so I could do the stuff no one else could do, like plan a funeral.
  • One set of friends flew to DC the day after they heard about Andrew's death, just to keep me company. One of them, R, spent the next ten days with me. He took all that time off of work, and was simply there for me. He made sure I drank enough water, and that I always had tissues to cry into. He took notes on tasks I needed done. He chauffuered relatives. He even went with my mother and I to find a dress I could wear to the funeral.
  • My job was great. I've only worked at my company for three months, but they cobbled together enough accumulated vacation time, comp time, and bereavement time that I could have a funeral and spent time with Andrew's family before heading back to work.
  • My family and Andrew's family have been wonderful. They all got here as soon as they could, and they grieved with me. My in laws shared stories of Andrew when he was a kid, and my niece and nephew put on a play in which their roles were "Aunt Renee" and "Uncle Andrew" (because that's how you make sense of stuff like this when you are four and seven).
  • I'm also grateful about paperwork. Andrew died without a will, and I was prepared for months of paperwork, probate, and court dates. But we happened to be in a sweet spot - we had paid off our debts but not accumulated much savings, which meant that I qualified for a super-straightforward version of probate that was completed on the spot. Within one day I had transferred his assets to my name, including the title for the car and motorcycle. Working with government bureaucracy is not my favorite activity, but this couldn't have gone more smoothly.
These are all people and situations that I wanted to publicly acknowledge. I am so grateful for the friends, colleagues, and family that help me DO all the things that needed doing. The rest of the grieving takes time, but I can do that at my own pace.

Monday, August 12, 2013


Tomorrow would have been my fifth wedding anniversary. As it approached, I had been joking to Andrew that we only had 45 more years to go, because a golden anniversary was our goal. I might even say that the opportunity to celebrate our golden anniversary was why we got married.

I was ready to marry Andrew about a year after we met, but he was much less sure about the whole idea. We spent a number of months discussing marriage, but he just wasn't ready to commit. (To be fair, he was only 22 when I met him, while I was 30.) After about a year of these discussions, in which I was trying (and not really succeeding) to be patient, I came to him one night with the Washington Post where I had been reading the anniversary announcements and told him that I wanted to that to be me - I wanted to celebrate my silver and golden wedding anniversary with him. Something clicked inside him, and he proposed.

That is a nice memory, but tomorrow's going to be a rough day.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Here, now

I don't really know how to begin my blog again, so I'll just try my best, which is how I'm going through my life right now anyway.

Everyone wants to know how Andrew died. I think this is a way of trying to make sense of what was a very sudden death of a young healthy person. The short answer is that he tripped while jogging. I wasn't with him but he was able to call me, and I call the paramedics. When I got to him, he seemed to be in a lot of pain, and I thought he had broken some ribs. In fact, he had suffered an aneurysm and died less than two hours after the fall, in spite of speedy and excellent emergency care.

The longer answer, and the reason he died from a simple fall, is that he suffered from Marfan syndrome. This is a disease of the connective tissues, and affects all parts of the body. People who have it frequently die at a very young age, and it not unusual that the first sign of the disease in an aneurysm. We never knew that he had this disorder, and in fact never suffered from any of the pain or other symptoms. I am quite confident that he felt healthy and strong during his whole life until that very morning, and I comforted by the fact that he was able to live fully while he was alive.

There's more to say, about how I'm doing, and how many friends and family have supported me in the last two weeks, but that's enough for now.